Vera Balyura is the enigmatic jeweler behind VERAMEAT, a two-store chain of jewelry shops with most distinct vibes. Featuring boutique jewelry hung from taxidermied roadkill, Vera’s personality lives on the walls of her shop, and what an epic personality that is: she’s equally at home playing acoustic guitar, riffing on the importance of functional art, or discussing the history of cannibalism.
CONVICTS caught up with Vera to get her word on her shamanic family history, the notion of recycling the body after death,and getting personal across the retail counter.
Talk a little bit about your art director Anja, how does that partnership work?
Ya, know me and Anja, we’re both artistic, but we’re a little bit different. Anja likes a biker 80’s type, like roses and chokers type of thing. Very like, sexy naked lady kind of things. I love animals and magical stuff and I think I’m a little more feminine, but witchy. But then again, we also kind of like the same stuff too. It’s hard to explain, but we just kind of understand each other.
What’s your connection to animals and the natural world?
Some of my relatives come from a tribe called the Yakut, in Siberia. They’re shamans and they also make delicious yogurt and herd reindeer.
You clearly dig taxidermy. Can you talk a bit about that?
If I’m dead, use my fur if you want. I really think animals probably feel the same way. Ya know, don’t kill me for it, but if I’m already dead…
Some might say that’s a little macabre. Talk more about this theme of re-using the body after death?
There’s a book called ‘Eat Thy Neighbor: The History of Cannibalism’, and I read that and learned a lot. It was really interesting. The Romans actually, depending on how much money they wanted from a dead relative, they would get that in proportion to how much you eat of your relative.
Do you want to get eaten after you die?
My sister says she would eat maybe a small little bit of me but she wasn’t as into it. We’ll see what happens.
Switching gears just a bit, what got you into the jewelry making game?
I was walking the street looking for a cool ring that was kind of artistic, that I could wear everyday and would give me some kind of energy. Some kind of a good luck charm. And I couldn’t find anything and it annoyed me, but it also was confusing ‘cause it seems like such a basic item. So I just started looking up YouTube stuff on how to make castings and jewelry and. I was visiting my sisters in LA and I saw that there was a college that had fine art jewelry type stuff, so I took a class. I didn’t think I would be like successful or doing it as a business necessarily. I just thought that it’d be fun to try it.
What steps did you take from there?
So I quickly started making some jewelry and I was trying to quit modeling. I was always getting called for random jobs by stylists that I liked, and one of them asked me about the jewelry I was wearing. I was doing a shoot for Nylon and one of the editors stopped by and she was wondering what it was and asked me to send some over. I had ten pieces that I sent over and they did a feature and said ‘Now you’re a jewelry designer’, and I was like, ‘ok, I guess I better make more stuff.’ Then I made a website and it started selling well, so it was fun.
Did you learn more in jewelry college or out in the business world?
When you’re talking with people that actually have a business and things happening for them, it’s more exciting. You’re just learning more. I always say just start doing it, ‘cause there’s no time like the present.
Do you miss anything about working in the store?
I love that when I used to work in the store, I would ask people like twenty million questions. I’d try to get into their personal life. I’d be like, ‘I’m helping you, but seriously like, what happened with your ex-boyfriend?’